Three candidates have announced their intention to run in the 2022 election for Buncombe County Sheriff, including incumbent Quentin Miller.
Miller beat Republican opponent Shad Higgins in a crushing victory in 2018, becoming the county’s first black sheriff. Running against him this time are David Hurley, a democrat and Adrien “AJ” Fox, a Republican.
Despite running as a Democrat, Hurley was previously registered as a Republican and said the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, according to Asheville Guard Dog.
According to the campaign website for Hurley and his LinkedIn (listed as David Bentley), he served in the Marines for four years, returned to the United States and became a police officer in Raleigh, left the police force to work in private security in Afghanistan, and then moved on to launched an internet marketing company, which he recently sold.
Hurley’s views hover between ideological lines: On August 9, he reposted a meme on his campaign Facebook page which says, “When the rich steal from the poor, it’s called business.” When the poor fight back it is called violence, ”while at a July meeting in Pack Square, Hurley told the group that if elected he would aim to be a“ constitutional sheriff ”.
The constitutional sheriff is a small but growing ideological movement who believes county sheriffs are the nation’s most senior law enforcement officers, more powerful than local, state or federal police. The movement is mostly supported by a mix of far-right groups, from former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the Oath Keepers, a militia organization with many members linked to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol uprising.
On Fox’s campaign website, he also says he’s running as a constitutional sheriff.
“I’m running so we can take back our county because it has gone downhill so far with antifa and BLM,” Fox told the Citizen Times, explaining that he was referring to the summer 2020 protests against the police brutality. He said “heroin camps” and “needle exchange programs” are other examples of how the county has gone downhill.
Fox said he would not propose any policy changes, but would “apply the (policies) that already exist.” He said he would detain federal immigrants detained for immigration and customs enforcement. In 2019, Miller stopped detaining immigrants for the agency unless they had a warrant signed by a judge.
Fox worked in law enforcement for 40 years. He said he worked for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office for nearly two decades, the Lake Lure Police Department and the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office.
While serving as a Member of Parliament for Buncombe County, Fox worked under Sheriff Bobby Medford. Medford was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for corruption and extortion. He died in June 2020 after contracting COVID-19 while incarcerated.
During Miller’s tenure, he adopted pro-progressive policies. In addition to ending the prison’s relationship with ICE, he has dismissed deputies charged with misconduct, including the July 23 dismissal of Matthew Lund, accused of child abuse. Following the protests last summer, Miller announced a change in the department’s policy on the use of force. MPs are now required to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force.
The sheriff is currently grappling with the deaths of people who died while held at the Buncombe County Detention Center, which Miller oversees management. The family of Jacob Biddix, who collapsed inside the prison in July 2020 and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter, said Miller’s office had not contacted them for nearly a year after his death.
No debate is scheduled yet, but Fox and Hurley have expressed interest in debating Miller.
Clarissa Donnelly-DeRoven is the police and forensic reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on twitter @plz_CLARify or text her at 828-616-0742.